Apr 122011
 

The shower valve is one of the most important parts of the shower. Even so, most people have no idea of what it actually does, or that there are many different makes and models that are available to them.

Therefore, before you begin any kind of bathroom remodel or renovation and especially if you are changing showerheads, you should have a basic understanding of what the valve does and what options you have.

Manual Valve

The least expensive type of shower valve on the market is the regular or manual valve. These valves do not regulate the temperature of the water nor do they control the pressure. This is the type of system that is in place if you’ve ever been either frozen or scalded in the shower.

Additionally, if this were not bad enough, if someone in the house decided to run the dishwasher, you might have had your shower reduced to a steady drip.

Pressure Balanced Valve

The pressure balanced valve is the one that you will find in most homes today. This valve is probably the one that you have in your bathroom right now. It normally consists of a single handle and a single control. When you turn the handle to the left, the water gets warmer. You do not control the pressure.

With this valve, you do not have to worry about other people using the water while you are showering. The valve is set to accommodate any changes in both temperature and pressure automatically. If someone does flush the toilet, the temperature in the shower should not vary more than a couple of degrees.

These shower valves often incorporate what is known as a diverter. This small valve allows you to direct where the water comes out. In many of these systems, the diverter control is on the faucet. This changes the water from flowing out of the faucet and directs it to the showerhead.

Thermostatic valve

The other option available is known as a thermostatic valve. This permits an individual to set the temperature of the water and regulate the pressure. There are separate controls for both. This feature is great for shower safety and for anyone who plans to install a shower with multiple outlets or for performance showers.

Shut-off valve

For additional water and utility bill savings, you should consider a shut-off valve or on-off button. With this device, you simply push a button or turn a lever to turn off the water from the shower head. When you’re finished soaping up, simply turn the water back on. The water returns and you don’t even have to readjust the water temperature.

Shower Valve Installation

A shower valve is not difficult to install, depending on exactly what you intend to do. If you are doing a simple replacement job, you can most likely do the job yourself in a matter of hours.

However, if you are planning to go with an extremely elaborate shower with multiple heads and different types of valves, you are probably better off getting a plumber or contractor to do the job. If you are going to put out thousands for a custom shower with special rain atmosphere showerheads, the installation is not where you want to start pinching pennies.

There is also a matter of building codes and insurance. As with any type of remodeling, you will have to find out exactly what the codes are in your area. In many cities, you are no longer permitted to install regular valves. For shower safety reasons you must put in either a thermostatic valve or a pressure balanced shower valve. If you do have any problems or the shower leaks and causes water damage to anything in the house, you may discover that your insurance is not going to cover the costs if you did the renovation yourself. Sometimes it is simply better to get a professional.

Nov 042009
 

Showers use water. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates a five-minute shower can use up to 25 gallons of water. That’s 5 gallons of water a minute. And some older shower heads put out 6 to 8 gallons of water a minute, meaning a five-minute shower could use up to 40 gallons of water a minute.

Water costs money. Most studies report that about 20% of your home water bill is spent on shower water. A low flow shower head is the way to save money on home water use. Water saving shower heads also help the environment by conserving a precious resource.

A low-flow showerhead typically uses 2.5 gallons per minute or less, meaning a five-minute shower will use about 12.5 gallons of water. That means using a low flow showerhead can reduce your shower water usage by 50%. Savings in water means additional savings in the gas or electricity you need for your hot water heater.

In the early days, low flow shower heads got a bad rap because all they did was block some of the water flow. It was hard to get clean in a trickle of water. But engineering and manufacturing changes have led to newer heads that provide the water and pressure you need to take a decent shower.

Aerating and Non-aerating Shower Heads

An aerating low flow shower head works by mixing air into the water. This allows the water stream to have a steady pressure that gives the user a full, even spray.

A non-aerating shower head does not mix air into the water. This means the water stream is harder, giving a more pulsating or massaging-type spray. Because the air doesn’t cool the water, the water coming out of the head may be a little hotter than with the aerating type.

Most people prefer the aerating low flow shower heads because of the softer, even water flow they provide.

Scalding Danger

There is one danger with low flow shower heads – scalding. This can occur if, for example, while you’re in the shower, someone flushes the toilet. While cold water is filling the toilet tank, the water pressure in the cold water pipes drop. Less cold water reaches the shower and suddenly the shower starts running mostly hot water.

This problem can be avoided with an anti-scald valve that senses water pressure differences, then balances the water flow. A more expensive option is a thermostatic mixer, which is a valve that adjusts for both water pressure and water temperature.

Shut-off valve

For additional water and utility bill savings, you should consider a shut-off valve or on-off button. With this device, you simply push a button or turn a lever to turn off the water from the shower head. When you’re finished soaping up, simply turn the water back on. The water comes returns and you don’t even have to readjust the water temperature.

Cost

Typical low-flow showerheads can range in cost from US$8 to over US$50. The difference is in quality of construction, finish, and options. Options can include styling, the number of jets, and adjustment choices. Models that are hand held will also cost a bit more.